Owning it

It was tech week for Romeo and Juliet, and the teen that was supposed to sit at the ticket table couldn’t make it.

Enter a mom to help out.

This mom, while stocking the refreshment table, overheard the following remark. Friar Laurence to Romeo: ‘We really need a kid to sell tickets.’

My gut reaction of hey-whaddaya-mean-we-grown-ups-count-too was as fleeting as the wink of an eye, and about as ironic. Wasn’t this what all the homeschooling stuff was about, anyway? Confidence, independence, and things of that ilk?

On the website for Youthquake Theater, they claim the following: ‘We are proud to say that our productions are organized, acted, and directed entirely by children and teens.’ I’ve been around for all of their shows, and can unreservedly say they’re not exaggerating. Grown-up involvement is limited to transporting actors to rehearsals and performances, and selling tickets and refreshments.

We also get to watch, with great pleasure, the process of kids taking ownership of their work. Although I’ve seen it in many forms over the years, it never fails to elicit a kind of transcendent astonishment, a feeling of being surprised but not surprised, a sense of excitement as I watch what I know to be true — that kids are brilliant and capable  — come true.

The ability to own their work isn’t limited to kids who are homeschooled, but they’re in a better position to do it than kids who spend their days being told what to do, how to do it, and whether they’re good enough.

I’ve watched my own kids, as teens, become competent songwriters, play in professional musical ensembles, co-author psychological research, record CDs, sell art work at fairs and open studios, start a theater company specializing in the work of William Shakespeare, write and edit professionally, tutor grade school kids in math, answer phones at a suicide hotline, build websites for their various undertakings, and pursue academic subjects of their choice with zeal. I’ve been privileged to see other teens embrace their work with dedication and competence, too. I think what I’ve observed is reflective of what all teenagers, who we now know are in a period of intense, powerful brain development, can accomplish.

Lest anyone think a high-powered childhood led up to my kids’ high level of productivity and drive, let me burst that bubble right now. The first decade of their lives was spent, primarily, in play. They played when they wanted to, and how they wanted to. They had ownership of their play, just as they have ownership of the work they do now.

When kids grow up with ownership of their own work (and that includes play), they are less likely to feel trapped, hopeless, isolated, and lonely. They are more likely to be able to flow with change, see challenge as opportunity, and experience satisfaction from within, rather than seeking it from without. They are more likely to be blessed with, in the words of the late, great John Holt, ‘A life worth living, and work worth doing…’


3 thoughts on “Owning it

  1. Thank you for posting. I am a professional actress but haven’t worked for several years due to marriage and having three babies in three years, and it is a delight to read about these kids and Youthquake. It reminded me afresh of why I love the arts (mostly serious play that you can get paid to do!), and why play really does enable us to grow and discover life and have ownership over it. I’m sorry I am rambling a bit. We are going to home educate our kids, I think John Holt was brilliant and so right and I was encouraged by your post to commit to my approach -to let my kids play with as little overseeing as I can manage. I want them to own it. I still want to own it more. Thanks, 🙂


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